The first major law that demonstrated the importance of a positive business climate to the growth of the New York grape and wine industry was enacted 40 years ago: The Farm Winery Act of 1976.
It was a lifeline for struggling grape growers, a stimulus for industry growth, and a major event in the development of the modern New York wine industry.
In the late 1970’s, New York’s many winegrape growers were hit by a perfect storm: major changes in corporate ownership of the large wineries, a flood of cheap subsidized imported wines, and changes in consumer tastes. Prices for grapes were plummeting, and the market was drying up.
At that time, all wine grapes from independent growers went to a handful of large wineries, most in the Finger Lakes.
The Farm Winery Act created another option: Make and sell your own wine. It had to contain 100% New York-grown grapes (not necessarily your own, however), and at first the annual limit was 50,000 gallons (now 250,000 gallons), but you could sell your wines directly to consumers, as well as directly to restaurants, wine retailers, and of course wholesalers.
This was new freedom!
Information taken from New York Wine and Grape Foundation Newsletter, May 22, 2016